Catfishing in West Africa

loads of catfish in water

Written for an English III Descriptive class. Based on true experiences.

As a boy in the savannahs of West Africa, I enjoyed going catfishing with my native friends. We loved being outside so much that we would spend the whole day just trying to catch catfish. With the sun on our backs and grasping our fishing baskets in our hands, catfishing became a regular activity.

On cool breezy mornings, I would wake up, get dressed, and head out with my friends. I enjoyed running out in the wee hours of the morning before homeschool started. Dawn would clothe herself with the music of crickets singing from their dew-covered homes in the tall grasses of the savannah. The breeze would hit our backs and send chills creeping all over. We would gather our necessities and run out to the open field.

As the dawn blanketed the native villages, my friends and I scurried on the well-worn path like a mouse under the full moon of the night running from a hungry snake. Running down hill, jumping from boulder to boulder, we made our way to the outskirts of the town. The leaves and grasses of the field clung to our clothes and took a souvenir of our skin. As I slowed down a bit, my bare feet felt the texture of the sand and mud.

We walked slower now, taking in all the sounds around us as the sun peeked out from under her covers. She stretched over the sky and adorned her head with a colorful halo. Off in the distance a rooster awoke and gave a joyful shout to its creator in heaven. Birds in the trees, jumping from branch to branch, sang melodious songs.

As we approached the pond, the voices of adults and children could be heard. The grasses parted, as if to let a great king pass by, and bowed down to the earth with respect. My friends and I found a spot on the beach. The beach surrounded a shallow pond slightly covered with lily pads and fresh cattail shoots. The waters were dark and calm.

On the other side of the pond, I could see friends catching frogs with their nets. Frog legs, in Togo, West Africa, were considered a delicacy. Those who caught frogs separated the back legs from the body for the preparation of the tender meat.

My friends had already walked into the pond and were having fun catching numerous catfish. I removed my basket that I had brought with me from its carrying position. We would take old baskets and remove the bottoms from them. Taking the basket in both my hands, I walked quietly into the water. The mud, on the floor of the pond, was cold and squished between my toes. With a quick thrust, I planted the basket in the mud. I took my hand and whisked it around inside the basket and felt for swimming catfish. When I could not feel any, I lifted the basket out of the mud and moved to another spot.

Grasping the edges of the splinter-infested basket, I made another attempt to trap a fish. Without any hesitation I plunged the ends of the bottom of the basket into the muddy waters with alacrity, creating a small splash. I reached down into the basket again and swished my hand around, feeling for the rough-textured stomach of catfish. Two fish passed by my hand, the whiskers and rough skin brushing the palm of my hand. Grabbing them by their stomachs, I pulled them out of the water, and threw them towards the shore underhandedly. They flew up, up, up, until they fell and hit the edge of the shore with a loud “smack”. They wiggled about, like worms making their way through soft fertile earth, jumping and leaping to reach the water’s edge. Feeling remorseful, I strung a cord through their gills and threw them back into the water; to allow them to breathe; and tied the cord to a shoot protruding from the water’s edge. The sun was lifting itself high in the sky! Humidity turned himself into a vapor and whisked to another time. I stopped fishing after an hour and sat down on the beach to bask in the sun. I removed a tangerine from my pocket. Peeling the skin off, I bit into the juicy fruit. Sweet as candy, the juices filled my mouth and dribbled down my chin…as tasty as a forbidden fruit!

Looking around, I delighted in my surroundings. Baobab and tropical rain trees cast shadows on the grasses. A few feet away from me lay a lizard on a stone, lifting one foot then the other, getting a suntan. As it basked in the sun, the lizard licked the sweat off its eyes to get an afternoon drink. Red ants were kept busy with scraps of raw catfish, constantly taking them back to their den. I saw that my companions had finished catching catfish. They had caught more than I had. We secured our fish to the sides of our now wet baskets and made an excursion back to the village. We were very tired from exerting our strengths in trapping the fish with our baskets. Sun now laid herself out and shown all around creating a heat to sweat for! The savannah winds caressed our sweaty backs and cooled us down. Since I did not like to prepare the catfish, I gave my catch to my companions. I said goodbye to my friends and made my way home, just across the street. I found each day that I lived in West Africa very exciting! Being a boy in the savannahs of West Africa was a total joy going catfishing with my native friends!


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